State v. Williams

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation255 Md.App. 420,282 A.3d 292
Docket Number802, Sept. Term, 2021
Parties STATE of Maryland v. Artiis Ricardo WILLIAMS
Decision Date31 August 2022

255 Md.App. 420
282 A.3d 292

STATE of Maryland
v.
Artiis Ricardo WILLIAMS

No. 802, Sept. Term, 2021

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

August 31, 2022


Argued by: Karinna M. Rossi (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by: Nancy S. Forster (Tara LeCompte, Forster & LeCompte, on the brief), Towson, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Kehoe, Leahy, Beachley, JJ.

Leahy, J.

255 Md.App. 428

Since 1985, the Maryland General Assembly has required that inmates convicted of assaulting other inmates receive a "consecutive sentence." As currently codified, the "consecutive sentence" requirement of Maryland's inmate assault statute provides:

A sentence imposed under this section shall be consecutive to any sentence that the inmate was serving at the time of the crime or that had been imposed but was not yet being served at the time of sentencing.

Maryland Code (2002, 2021 Repl. Vol.), Criminal Law Article ("CR"), § 3-210(b) (emphasis added). The resolution of this appeal turns on the purpose and effect of the word "or" as it is used in CR § 3-210(b).

Appellant, Artiis Ricardo Williams, struck another inmate with his fists on December 8, 2019, while incarcerated at the Harford County Detention Center. At a hearing on October 21, 2020—which we shall refer to as the "plea and sentencing hearing"— Mr. Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on an inmate and was sentenced to one year and one day imprisonment, "consecutive to the last sentence to expire of all outstanding and unserved sentences."

Months later, Mr. Williams filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence. He argued that his sentence was not permitted by law because it was imposed consecutive to two other consecutive sentences: a 25-year sentence that he was serving at the time he assaulted the other inmate; and a 12-year sentence for a separate crime

282 A.3d 297

which had been imposed after the assault took place but before he was ultimately sentenced for the assault conviction. In other words, he was sentenced to serve one year and one day at the expiration of his 12-year sentence which is consecutive to his 25-year sentence. He argued that the "or" in CR § 3-210(b) should be read as exclusive, requiring that he be sentenced to a term consecutive to either the sentence that he was "serving at the time of the

255 Md.App. 429

crime" or a sentence that "had been imposed but was not yet being served at the time of sentencing."

At the conclusion of a hearing on July 8, 2021, the circuit court granted Mr. Williams's motion, finding that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because during the plea and sentencing hearing, he was advised that the sentence for his assault conviction would be imposed consecutive only to the 25-year sentence that he was serving at the time of the assault. The court then resentenced Mr. Williams to a term of one year and one day, consecutive only to the sentence that he was serving on the date he assaulted the other inmate. The State, pursuant to Maryland Code (1973, 2020 Repl. Vol.), Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article ("CJP"), § 12-302(c)(3), noted an appeal on August 3, 2021.1 It presents one question: "Did the circuit court act without authority when it modified [Mr.] Williams's sentence for assault on an inmate from a consecutive sentence to a concurrent one?"

We hold that CR § 3-210(b) requires that when an inmate is sentenced for an assault under CR § 3-210, the sentence imposed "shall" be consecutive to the last to expire of "any" sentence that the inmate was serving at the time of the assault as well as "any" sentence that had been imposed, but that the inmate was not yet serving, at the time of sentencing. In the underlying case, the court correctly found that Mr. Williams was not advised at his plea and sentencing hearing that his sentence would be consecutive to both of his previously imposed sentences. At this juncture, the court should have vacated the sentence and given Mr. Williams the opportunity to withdraw his plea and stand trial. Instead, the court imposed an illegal sentence. We reverse the court's judgment,

255 Md.App. 430

vacate the illegal sentence, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

BACKGROUND

A. The Assault

In conjunction with the plea agreement presented to the court at the plea and sentencing hearing, the State read into the record a statement of facts, which Mr. Williams accepted with two modifications. The following account is based on the State's recital and Mr. Williams's corrections.

According to the State's proffer, Mr. Williams, while incarcerated at the Harford County Detention Center, assaulted another inmate on December 8, 2019. He initiated the incident by throwing a pair of dice and striking the inmate in the head. Standing only several feet away from Mr. Williams, the inmate responded by throwing an empty bottle at Mr. Williams. The bottle hit the phone that Mr. Williams was holding. Mr. Williams then struck the inmate in the head with "a closed fist[,]

282 A.3d 298

knocking him to the ground." Once the inmate was on the ground, Mr. Williams began socking him in the head with his fists, while another prisoner "stomp[ed]" on the inmate's head. The alteration ended after yet another prisoner "pulled everybody apart."2

Later the same day, the inmate informed corrections staff that he needed to go to the hospital because his jaw was broken. The inmate was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, "where he was diagnosed with a bilateral fracture of his mandible, ... and also a missing lower tooth." The mandible fracture required surgery.

Mr. Williams did not dispute that he struck the inmate in the head multiple times. He claimed, however, that he did not

255 Md.App. 431

initiate the incident and that the inmate incorrectly identified him as the person who threw the dice.

The Grand Jury for Harford County, on December 31, 2019, returned a four-count indictment against Mr. Williams charging him with: (1) first-degree assault; (2) first-degree assault on another inmate; (3) second-degree assault; and (4) second-degree assault on another inmate.

B. The Other Sentences

At the time of the assault, Mr. Williams was serving a term of 40-years’ incarceration, with all but 25 years suspended, for various possession and possession with intent to distribute narcotics convictions in Case No. C-12-CR-18-000561 ("case number 561").3 Mr. Williams was sentenced in case number 561 on December 6, 2019—just two days before the assault took place. Then, five days after he assaulted the inmate, Mr. Williams pleaded guilty in Case No. 12-K-17-001435 ("case number 1435"), involving an unrelated possession with intent to distribute charge for an incident that occurred in 2016. In case number 1435, Mr. Williams was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment, with all but 12 years suspended.4 The commitment record in case number 1435, entered on December 13, 2019, specifies that Mr. Williams's sentence is to be served consecutive to his sentence in case number 561.5

255 Md.App. 432
282 A.3d 299

C. The Underlying Plea Agreement

Mr. Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on another inmate at the plea and sentencing hearing on October 21, 2020. In exchange for this plea, the State entered a nolle prosequi for the other counts and agreed to dismiss a parole violation in case number 561. The State advised the court that the parties had agreed to a sentence of one year and one day "consecutive to any other sentences which have not yet been completed." Defense counsel agreed with the terms proffered by the State but noted that, from her review of Mr. Williams's record, his sentence "would be consecutive to case C-12-CR-18-000561."

Defense counsel advised Mr. Williams of the elements of second-degree assault on an inmate, and readvised him that his sentence would be consecutive to his sentence in case number 561:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: The maximum penalty is ten years, but it has to be imposed consecutive to any sentence that you have been ... has been imposed whether you're serving or not yet serving. So that sentence would be the case with the 25 years that you received ... ending in [0561] .... You understand that?

[MR. WILLIAMS]: Yes.
255 Md.App. 433

The court accepted the plea agreement after it found that Mr. Williams knowingly and voluntarily entered his plea. It imposed a sentence of one year and one day, with one day of credit, to be served "consecutive to any and all other sentences that you are currently serving ." (Emphasis added). Immediately after the court announced the sentence, defense counsel, to clarify the terms of the...

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    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 22 Agosto 2023
    ...the canons of construction we seek to "ascertain and effectuate the real and actual intent of the Legislature." State v. Williams, 255 Md.App. 420, 439 (2022) (quoting State v. Johnson, 415 Md. 412, 421-22 (2010)). That search commences "with the plain language of the statute, and ordinary,......
  • Chase v. State
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
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    ...for the particular offense or the sentence is not a permitted one for the conviction upon which it was imposed[.]" State v. Williams, 8 255 Md.App. 420, 439 (2022) (quoting Rainey v. State, 236 Md.App. 368, 374 (2018)). Once challenged, an inherently illegal sentence cannot stand, "regardle......

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